Saturday, July 2, 2016

Scene + Sequel = Story

Which is more important – plot or story?  It’s a writer’s debate as old as a scroll of papyrus.

The simple answer is both are critical to a satisfying read.  You book nerds know what I’m talking about.  The kind of read where ordinary life comes to a screeching halt.  You skip meals, stop returning phone calls, and maybe miss a hair wash or two - just so you can keep flipping those pages or swipe that screen.

So, what exactly is the difference between plot and story?  Although they are often used interchangeably, plot is the protagonist’s physical journey.  Story is the protagonist’s emotional journey. What we’re really talking about is scenes and sequels.  There are many ways you can look at this, but it really comes down to cause and effect.  Scenes are the CAUSE of a protagonist’s actions and Sequels are the EFFECT of those actions.  Put another way, scenes show and sequels tell.


SCENE

Goal + Conflict = Disaster
Goal – What the character wants.  Must be clearly definable
Conflict – Series of obstacles that keep the character from the goal
Disaster – Makes the character fail to get the goal

If a scene is truly effective, the protagonist will fail to reach his or her goal and be worse off than before.  (Again, this drives the story forward keeps those pages flipping like Grandma’s pancakes).   Side note: Time always unifies a scene!


SEQUEL

Reaction + Dilemma = Decision
Reaction – Emotional follow through of the disaster
Dilemma – A situation with no good options
Decision – Character makes a choice and sets up a new goal


If a sequel is truly effective, it will turn the disaster into a new established goal (which won’t be met, of course, until perhaps the end of the story).  It will establish the character’s motivation and force him or her to make a choice, which is the key to suspending disbelief.   This is the time for any character soul-searching or backstory.  Side note: Topic always unifies a sequel!

So to spring back to my original point, both scenes and sequels are what cause the reader to flip pages or swipe screens.  They both drive the story.  By using scenes and sequels effectively, you as the author control the pace of the story.

For instance, scenes read fast because they’re active keeping the reader engaged, whereas sequels slow down the pace of the story.  They give the reader time to breathe and contemplate as they TELL what happens rather than SHOW the events.  (The protagonist also takes five as they emote about the success or failure of their actions and think about options for Plan B, i.e. a new scene).  

Writing should flow like a song.  As with anything melodious, it requires harmony and balance.  By interweaving plot and story or scenes and sequels, a writer honors both the pace of the story and the evolution of the character.

So the next time you’re sitting around with your own Algonquin round table writing pals, and the topic of plot versus story comes up, lay it on thick with the scenes and sequels argument.  I don’t know about the sequel part but you’re sure to make a scene!



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Skype an Author Visit Today!

Should one believe the hype about Skype?  Absolutely, yes!

My most recent Skype author visit was with the phenomenal fourth grade students from Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz, Florida.  While nothing can replace a personal visitation, Skype allowed for an efficient, rewarding experience, bringing the students and me together in a personal and entertaining format.  The precocious tweens had prepared questions in advance and having read Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School, they were eager to discuss the book and writing process in general.  In short, it was a glorious morning!

So for us non-techy types, what exactly is Skype?  Skype is an Internet telephone service that allows one to connect with others by video, telephone, or voice messaging.  Once you download the Skype software, setting up an account is relatively easy, and utilizing basic services such as video calls is free, which is economical for schools that are often challenged with limited budgets.

Some Skype Author Tips I share with librarians and teachers to help the presentation go smoothly as possible and maximize our time together include the following:

Download Skype and open an account if your school doesn’t have one already.  (Contact your technology coordinator to make sure you can use the software. Some districts block programs like Skype, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to see if it’s possible to unblock it for your program). Test it out at school to make sure it works.

Contact the author to arrange your virtual visit. Set a date and time and decide which videoconferencing program you’ll use and who will initiate the call.

Plan the presentation. How long will it last?  Will students gather around a computer or will the author be projected on a big screen?  Where will kids stand or sit so they can be seen and heard?  Have kids write questions on index cards in advance to keep the discussion moving.

The day before, set up a “trial call” with the author to make sure everything is working on both ends.

Make sure the kids understand that your connection may be lost temporarily during the chat. It helps to have a plan in place for when that happens.

On the day of the presentation during Q and A, if the kids seem reticent, you might start things off with a question or two to prompt discussion.

If your connection is lost, don’t panic. Just call the author back. It may take a few tries before you establish a good connection.

Keep an eye on the clock, and let students know when it’s almost time to wrap up the discussion.


Skype author presentations are a win-win for both authors and schools, who most certainly will integrate them into prevailing Blended Learning curriculum and digital instruction.  They are a time saver for busy authors and a money saver for schools.  Most importantly, Skype author presentations provide an opportunity for an interactive connection among the literary troika of author, student, and text.  Online, interactive school visits are the wave of the future as students, authors, and educators can dialog about the joy of expressing oneself through the written word.

Happy Skyping!

You can use the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Speakers Bureau to find authors who Skype at http://www.scbwi.org/speakers-bureau/






Thirty Sample Student Questions to Ask Authors During Skype Interviews

1. When did you first start writing?

2. What is the hardest part about writing a book?

3. How do you know when a book is finished?

4. How do you keep track of the different characters, events, and places?

5. What time of day do you do your best/ most productive writing?

6. What do you do with random ideas that pop into your head when you can't write them down?

7. What inspired your first book?

8. Do you map out the entire plot? Or just write as it comes to you?

9. What do you do when you get stuck or experience writer’s block?

10. What are your tips/ secrets about writing for any up and coming author who may need help/ encouragement?

11. When you are not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

12. What books do you enjoy reading? (favorite genre, author, book, etc.)

13. How long does it take you to write a book?

14. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

15. How do books get published?

16. Do you edit or proofread your own books?

17. How do you research information or ideas for your books?

18.  What does your family (parents, spouse, kids) think of your writing?

19.  How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

20.  Do you have a favorite character?  Which character would be your best friend?

21.  Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

22.  Are people ever critical of your books?  How does it make you feel?

23.  What audience do you write for?

24.  What do you think makes a good story?

25.  How did you come up with the title?

26.  Is there an overall message or theme in your books that you want readers to grasp?

27.  How much of the book is based on real life or someone you know?

28.  What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

29.  What are your current writing projects?

30.  Who designed the cover(s) of your book(s)?





For more information on Skype Author presentations, please visit my website:


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sensational Teen and Tween Summer Reads

As we all fondly recall, summer vacation is the ultimate!  Staying up late into the night, basking in the golden sun, slurping up frothy ice cream concoctions, and yes - hopefully reading a good book or two or three...or three in one day.  And why not?  It's summer, after all.

Here is a list of twelve of my 2016 fave summer reads for tweens and teens.  The list includes some classics and some contemporary, depending on personal choice.  Either way, tweens/teens will have a blast getting their read on!!!



Kimberly's 2016 Summer Reading List for Tweens and Teens


1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

2) Bone Gap - Laura Ruby

3) The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

4) Paper Towns - John Green

5) The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

6) Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

7) The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton

8) The Best of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl

9) If I Stay - Gayle Forman

10) The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

11) Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

12) Girl Online - Zoe Sugg




HAPPY READING!!!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:



Saturday, April 2, 2016

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum! 


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tween Fever Hits Coffee County Middle School!

I had a amazing time at Authors' Night at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester, TN.  The students were ebullient and full of questions about how to become a writer.  It was such an inspiration.  Thank you, Coffee County Middle School!



For more information on Kimberly Dana Author Events, please visit my website at http://kimberlydana.com/author_visits_19.html